Australia has over the past twenty years worked hard to project ourselves as a modern, multi-cultural and outward thinking nation whose future rests in Asia.
Our Prime Minister's decision this week to 'turn-back the clock' by reinstating the appointment of Knights and Dames, will send a confusing signal to our region.
Whilst most of our neighbours will outwardly dismiss this decision as 'unimportant', at a deeper level it will reinforce the (incorrect) stereo-type that despite our rhetoric Australia is still very much an Anglo-Saxon nation strongly connected to its British past; and unsure about being a vibrant and leading part of the Asian Century.
And at home, Mr Abbott's decision has diminished the standing of those citizens who have been previously awarded an AC or a Companion of the Order of Australia.
The select group of eminent Australians who hold the AC title were until yesterday recognised as those Australians who had been acknowledged as our most respected and honoured people. Today they have been relegated into second place by the appointment by the Queen of England (Australia) of a Knight and a Dame.
This is an insult to the people who received these awards under an Australian Honour system; and not some archaic British system that resembles an episode of ‘Yes Minister’.
Even our former Liberal prime minister, John Howard and WA's Liberal premier Colin Barnett disagrees with what Mr Abbott has done.
This is the Prime Minister that upon being elected to lead our country said, “This will be a government of no surprises”.
Mr Abbott was also elected to 'get the job done' and address Australia's key issues involving asylum seekers, the economy and health and education challenges. Yet as the Indonesian ambassador to Australia enters his 5th month of absence from Canberra, after having being formally recalled by his government, and China and the US compete for dominance in our region, we have a PM indulging in Rudd-like practices involving self-indulgent acts such as recreating Knights and Dames without any consultation with colleagues, or the people.
Well this silly, embarrassing, and offensive decision to revert back to the days of a true British tradition - and in doing so vandalise our highly respected Australian Honours system – sure has 'surprised' many people from our entire community.
Here is a prime minister who, on one hand is dumping the asylum seeker problem in the hands of our nearest and relatively poor neighbour (Indonesia), whilst on the other hand is reinstating a British system of Knighthoods etc. And we wonder why we are viewed so cautiously within our region.
Mr Abbott has shown that his leadership really is about holding Australia back from reaching our true potential as a nation, whilst desperately holding on to the apron of Mother England
27 March 2014